• Saturday, December 30, 2017 at 11:31 AM

    Trump to disappointed supporter: No, I said stocks, not stockings, fool

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Perhaps he should check his 401k and Bitcoin statements, no?  Oh right, the only ones who have those are rich folks who didn’t even vote for Trump. #Sucker!

  • Wednesday, December 27, 2017 at 7:09 AM

    Happy Kwanzaa!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Traditional Kwanzaa BookIt’s a curious thing that so many black Americans – who insist on calling themselves African Americans – know so little about their American heritage, and even less about their African ancestry. But this is probably because “black pride” is about as ethereal and subjective as religious faith….

    Martin Luther King Jr. taught us the objective value of judging people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. In a similar vein, I humbly suggest that racial pride should be based not on the assumption of things unseen but on substance of deeds done.

    It is in this spirit of racial enlightenment that I celebrate Kwanzaa (December 26 to January 1).

    In so doing, I pay homage to the Afrocentric Dr Maulana Kerenga who founded this holiday in 1966 “not to substitute for Christmas” but to reaffirm what it is to be of African ancestry.

    Family Celebrating KwanzaaMore important, though, if all black people endeavored to live according to the seven guiding principles (Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa, then having black pride would entail far more than spouting off hollow rhetoric:

    1. Umoja: (oo-MO-jah) Unity stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, “I am We” or “I am because We are.”

    2. Kujichagulia: (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah) Self-determination requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.

    3. Ujima: (oo-GEE-mah) Collective Work and Responsibility remind us of our obligation to the past, present, and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.

    4. Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah) Cooperative economics emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.

    5. Nia (NEE-yah) Purpose encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.

    6. Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) Creativity makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.

    7. Imani (ee-MAH-nee) Faith focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.

    In fact, with these guiding principles, blacks should come to celebrate Kwanzaa the way Jews celebrate Hanukkah….

    Happy Kwanzaa!

  • Tuesday, December 26, 2017 at 8:07 AM

    Happy Boxing Day!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    Boxing Day is a Christmas-hangover holiday that is observed throughout the British Commonwealth on December 26. However, like most British (“bank”) holidays, it has no modern significance beyond providing lazy Englishmen (and the people they “colonized”) a pretext for another day off from work.

    Nonetheless, if you’re interested in Boxing Day folklore, including how it relates to boxes that contained Christmas Day presents, click here.

  • Monday, December 25, 2017 at 8:12 AM

    Merry Christmas!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 8:02 AM

    Happy Festivus!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Playwrights used Jesters to highlight the folly in prevailing thoughts and customs of the day long before William Shakespeare patented this literary device.

    Therefore, it’s entirely fitting that Jerry Seinfeld used jesters to highlight the folly of celebrating Christmas more as an homage to crass commercialism than the birth of Jesus Christ. He did so by making “Festivus for the rest of us” the theme of an episode of his hit show, Seinfeld.

    Festivus, which is celebrated on December 23, began in 1965 as a family ritual in the home of writer Dan O’Keefe. His son Daniel, a writer on Seinfeld, wove the entire history and meaning of Festivus into that episode, which aired on the December 18, 1997.

    I watched it. And, trust me, the uproarious laughter all references to Festivus evoked was surpassed only by the cunning message about the real meaning of Christmas, which I felt compelled to ponder long after the credits rolled.

    Ironically, Festivus is a wholly secular attempt to remind us that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Accordingly, it encourages us to utterly shun not only the indulgent ritual of shopping, but all of the other hedonistic activities Christians engage in this time of year.

    The O’Keefes do this by having an “Airing of Grievances” meal. It features each person telling other family members all the ways they disappointed him or her over the past year. They follow this meal with a “Feats of Strength” performance. It features family members wrestling and pinning the head of household to the floor to end the celebration of Festivus….

    Of course, because there’s no religious dogma associated with this holiday, you do not have to follow the O’Keefes’ fashion. Choose whatever non-commercial activity you wish. My choice is a family walk to commune with nature.

    I suspect many of you will be joining the madding crowd doing last-minute shopping – all in a perverse effort to celebrate His birth. But take a moment to think: “What would Jesus do?”

    Happy Festivus!

  • Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 8:43 AM

    US Uses Foreign Aid to Threaten World Over Jerusalem. China Should Call Its Bluff

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A truly incomprehensible feature of this first year of the Trump presidency is the extent to which he has continually marginalized the United States in world affairs. Critics often caricature his “America First” slogan as America isolated, standing alone. But I suspect this caricature has more truth than even his most informed supporters could have anticipated.

    Of course, Trump has used his withdrawal method to abandon such fertile deals as the Paris Climate Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And he has threatened to use it to abandon others like NATO and the Iran nuclear deal.

    The problem is that Trump is too conceited to care that his method portends considerable loss to the United States in terms of international influence and goodwill. Not to mention the disruption of a world order that has overseen an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity since World War II.

    Now comes this:

    President Trump issued a threat on Wednesday to cut off American aid to any country that votes for a resolution at the United Nations condemning his recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. …

    ‘All of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council or they vote against us, potentially, at the Assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,’ Mr. Trump said.

    ‘Well, we’re watching those votes,’ he added. ‘Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot. We don’t care.’

    (New York Times, December 20, 2017)

    Data from the Congressional Research Service show that the United States gives about $50 billion a year in foreign aid. But this represents only 1.3 percent of the federal budget. Moreover, the lion’s share of it goes to countries like Israel and Egypt for military and security assistance, which purportedly furthers America’s own national security. Except that, beyond fattening America’s military industrial complex, nobody can really say how.

    In any event, in terms of value for money, foreign aid is probably the most efficient and effective part of the federal budget. This is especially so when one juxtaposes that $50 billion and the international influence and goodwill it generates with the $5 trillion wasted on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, only to have Iran end up wielding more influence and receiving more goodwill.

    Incidentally, Trump spent most of his presidential campaign slamming George W. Bush and Barack Obama for these costly foreign entanglements, which include the deaths of nearly 7000 US soldiers. Yet he’s now aping them by doing in Yemen what they did in those two countries.

    Enter China!

    It is instructive that Russia is playing savior in Syria after the United States wasted billions trying to no avail to overthrow President Assad. Because China can play the same in all countries that lose US aid for daring to vote their conscience. And let’s be clear, there is only one right way to vote on this resolution: member states should vote to condemn the United States in the General Assembly, just as every country has already voted to condemn it in the Security Council.

    Mind you, Trump is infamous for making idle threats – like threatening to sue the women who accused him of sexual assault and threatening to rain fire and fury down on North Korea.

    And even if he follows through on this one, I’d bet my life savings that he would only punish poor and powerless countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. For nobody expects him to do anything to rich and powerful countries in Western Europe. But such disparate treatment would only reinforce the boneheaded, bullying nature of this threat.

    Frankly, this is just another case of Trump showing that, when it comes to the Art of the Deal in world affairs, he’s more checkers and marbles than chess and pachisi.

    It’s also just another reminder of the utter fecklessness of his reputed A-team of national-security advisers, which so many sensible Republicans insisted was their only reason for supporting his administration.

    I commented on the foreboding willingness of these advisers to enable Trump’s most reckless impulses in commentaries like “Trump Sharing Classified Info with Russians Forces McMaster to Spicer Himself,” May 16, 2017, and on the folly of this decision in “Recognizing Jerusalem: Trump’s America and Netanyahu’s Israel against the World,” December 7, 2017.

    This is why China should make a show of announcing that it will compensate (to the dollar) any country that loses US aid over this vote.  It can certainly afford to; after all, China probably spends more than $50 billion a year just bribing countries to shun Taiwan and the Dalai Lama.

    China has the black-hat reputation (or is that red-hat?) of giving foreign aid more to curry favor with wannabe despots than to provide humanitarian relief. Whereas the US has the white-hat reputation of giving primarily for humanitarian relief, often making aid to wannabe despots conditional of meeting markers of democratic freedoms and human rights. Well, if China offers to step into the breach as I propose, it would suddenly be the uncontested wearer of both hats.

    What’s more, I can think of no better way for China to counter the wanton insult inherent in this from Trump’s declaration of his first national security strategy:

    US President Donald Trump on Monday labeled China and Russia ‘revisionist powers’ and North Korea and Iran ‘rogue states’ that, together with terrorist groups, pose security challenges for the United States, as he pledged to ‘preserve peace through strength’ by rebuilding the US military.

    ‘China and Russia challenge American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.’

    (ABS-CBN News, December 19, 2017)

    Of course, China and Russia could only dream of eroding American security and prosperity the way Trump’s America First policies are doing all on their own.

    Still, China would do well to seize this declaration to acquire, for a song, much of the influence and goodwill Trump’s America clearly takes for granted.

    The UN votes later today. Here’s to the General Assembly forcing Trump to go home with his marbles and his tail between his legs.

    Related commentaries:
    McMaster Spicers himself
    Recognizing Jerusalem

  • Monday, December 18, 2017 at 7:28 AM

    Africans Selling Africans as Slaves … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The sale of African migrants at auctions in Libya has sparked outrage across the continent.

    A CNN report published earlier in November obtained footage of an auction, at which migrants stranded in the North African country were sold for as little as $400.

    For thousands of migrants from across sub-Saharan Africa, Libya is the last stopping point in Africa before making a perilous journey across the Mediterranean in the hope of reaching Europe.

    (Newsweek, November 23, 2017)

    No doubt this is as heartrending for you as it is tragic for these migrants. But I am all too mindful that Africans killing Africans has become a defining feature of this Dark Continent.

    Frankly, it seems whenever Western eyes are on Africa, we see tribal conflicts causing everything from famine to genocides and all manner of human suffering in between. And I have bemoaned it all in commentaries like “Help! Ethnic Cleansing and Forced Starvation Persists in Africa,” December 1, 2005, “Yes, Save Darfur! But What about Zimbabwe?” February 8, 2008, “Rwandan-Style Violence Erupts in Congo … Again,” October 29, 2008, “DR Congo’s Heart of Darkness Gets Even Darker,” December 4, 2012, “South Sudan Continues Descent into Heart of Darkness,” April 25, 2014, and “#BringBackOurGirls Lost in the Dustbin of Public Consciousness,” April 18, 2016, to cite just a few.

    This is why I’m not sure what to make of this “outrage across the continent” over Africans selling Africans.

    Indeed, if you’re a Nuer living in South Sudan, you’d probably consider it a blessing to be sold into slavery in neighboring Ethiopia. After all, the way the Dinkas are trying to ethnically cleanse the Nuers in South Sudan is eerily reminiscent of the (genocidal) way the Hutus tried to ethnically cleanse the Tutsis in Rwanda.

    Not to mention that outrage over slavery in Libya smacks of the dramatic shock over gambling in Casablanca.

    This is hardly the forum to elaborate. Therefore, suffice it to know that Africans were selling (and enslaving) Africans long before Europeans induced and/or forced them to become complicit in the transatlantic slave trade. Hell, even the “more civilized” races on the continent practiced slavery. Notably, the “Book of Exodus” chronicles the tale of human bondage that had Egyptians enslaving Israelites.

    That said, it is noteworthy that the Africans being sold today are desperately seeking migrants. Because I suspect some of the reported outrage is masking continental shame over the scourge African migration is posing to Europe.

    I just hope the damning irony is not lost on any proud African that, 50 years after decolonization, hundreds of Africans (men, women, and children) are risking their lives, practically every day, to subjugate themselves to the paternal mercies of their former colonial masters in Europe.

    (“African Migrants Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 12, 2015)

    I have often lamented that post-colonial Africa seems fated to loom amidst the continents of the world as a dark, destitute, diseased, desperate, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous, and ultimately dysfunctional mess.

    Accordingly, I have often conceded that, notwithstanding slavery and its racist legacy, blacks born in America and the Caribbean should thank their lucky stars that neither Abraham Lincoln nor Marcus Garvey succeeded in “repatriating” us to Africa. In other words, thank God we are here and not there!

    This is admittedly harsh, perhaps even heartless. But there’s no denying it’s just calling a spade a spade.

    Related commentaries:
    African migration
    Ethnic cleansing
    Save Darfur
    Rwanda-style violence
    Heart of Darknesss
    South Sudan
    #BringBackOurGirls

  • Saturday, December 16, 2017 at 8:08 AM

    Going wireless: disconnecting families as much as computers

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, December 15, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    Republicans Exploiting FBI Texts the Way Trump Exploited DNC E-mails

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I thought Bernie Sanders would have been a far more appealing Democratic nominee than Hillary Clinton for the 2016 presidential election.

    But the way Donald Trump exploited the private e-mails of staffers at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to undermine Hillary’s campaign reeked of cynicism and hypocrisy. This is why I condemned the media for blithely enabling him to do so.

    Yet all of that pales in comparison to the cynicism and hypocrisy afoot. I am referring to the way Republicans are exploiting the private text messages of agents at the FBI to undermine special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into the role Russia played in helping Trump get elected.

    For a little explanation and context, here is an excerpt from “Hey Media, Wikileaker Assange Is Still a Self-Promoting, Bail-Jumping Rape Suspect!” August 29, 2016.

    ____________________

    It hardly mattered that the leaked e-mails merely showed staffers rooting for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination. This, after all, was always as obvious as staffers at the RNC rooting for anyone but Donald Trump to win the Republican nomination.

    Not to mention that leaking e-mails about granting favors, peddling influence, and shifting alliances in Washington, is rather like leaking e-mails about political corruption, casino gambling, and street prostitution in Macau (all of which are legal, mind you).

    Yet, like a self-appointed messiah of transparency, Assange is sharing his hacked loot with any news organization prepared to facilitate his self-aggrandizing crusade. And far too many news anchors and political commentators are playing along — like disciples spreading his gospel. …

    This is what is passing for ‘Breaking News’ every day now — as Assange leaks a new cache of hacked e-mails like manna from heaven for lazy, unconscionable and myopic journalists. But what do you think CNN, Fox News, the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian, and other news organizations would do if Assange were leaking hacked e-mails of their anchors and reporters — purportedly to expose bias in the media? The obvious answer only hints at why my disgust with the news media compelled me to write commentaries like “Journalism Is ‘Having a Very, Very Pathetic Moment,’” November 13, 2013.

    Remarkably, no news organization is bothering to question the prurient nature of Assange’s leaks. Worse still, none of them appear to have any qualms about facilitating his cyber crimes, which serve no compelling public interest and are devoid of any socially redeeming value.

    But I cannot overstate that, for every embarrassing or compromising e-mail hackers can hack from the accounts of Democratic officials, they can hack equally embarrassing and compromising e-mails — not only from the accounts of Republican officials, but also from those of other political parties, civil servants, corporate employees, and private citizens … worldwide.

    ____________________

    With that, here is the prurient fodder House Republicans are making of the private text messages of FBI agents in the name of government oversight.

    A senior FBI counterintelligence official who had until recently been part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation spent months sending text messages to a colleague in the run-up to the 2016 election that derided President Donald Trump as a ‘douche,’ an ‘utter idiot,’ and a ‘loathsome human.’

    The release of the texts from Peter Strzok, who had led the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server before joining the Russia probe, is giving new ammunition to Mueller’s conservative critics. The Trump defenders say the texts provide clear evidence that the former FBI chief isn’t running an impartial probe — and should be removed from his post.

    (Vox, December 13, 2017)

    On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee spent hours questioning Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about these text messages. But the questions Republican members posed gave the impression that the agents involved were hatching a conspiracy to overthrow the Trump administration.

    Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Not to mention that Mueller summarily fired both agents – not because they did anything wrong but because he wanted to rid his investigation of any hint of bias or impropriety. Any fair-minded person would consider this demonstration of impartiality commendable and reassuring.

    This is why the Republicans questioning Rosenstein came across like a bunch of Chicken Littles.

    Rosenstein told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday he has seen no reason to fire Mueller thus far.

    ‘If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not,’ Rosenstein told the committee. …

    During the hearing, Rosenstein praised Mueller for his work in the special counsel, saying there was no one better qualified for the job.

    (CNN, December 14, 2017)

    This, of course, is the last thing Trump’s flailing defenders wanted to hear. After all, they are part of an open conspiracy among Republicans to undermine Mueller’s investigation. Which is just the latest example of them sacrificing what little principles they had at the altar of Trump’s presidency.

    Even worse, these erstwhile chest-thumping, law-and-order patriots seem deliriously unconcerned that they are helping Trump not only propagate a false equivalence between the FBI and the (old Russian) KGB, but also erode public confidence in the integrity of all democratic institutions.

    Except that these Republicans are fatally undermining their efforts by asserting that this investigation is rife with pro-Democratic bias. After all, Mueller, Rosenstein, and most of the other top officials involved are Republicans.

    What’s more, Rosenstein put the nail in their coffin in this respect when their partisan badgering compelled him to school them on the difference between agents venting personal opinions in text messages and showing professional bias in a criminal investigation.

    Apropos of which, just as it was with the private e-mails of DNC staffers, nobody at this hearing seemed bothered by airing the private texts of FBI agents that have no bearing on any public business. Moreover, I’d bet my life savings that an airing of the private texts of these Republicans would reveal they were saying the same kinds of things about Hillary that they are hurling political indignation at these agents for saying about Trump.

    Hypocrisy has always been redolent in American politics. But USA Today had just cause to headline its December 13 editorial “Will Trump’s lows ever hit rock bottom?” Because the defining feature of his presidency is the way he is inducing other politicians to lower their already low standards of political conduct and debate.

    Related commentaries:
    Hey Media, Wikileaker

  • Thursday, December 14, 2017 at 8:26 AM

    Confessions of Facebook Programmers Continue

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Founding president Sean Parker made news recently by confessing that he and fellow programmers designed Facebook more like an addictive drug than a networking tool. I duly commented in “Zuckerberg Designed Facebook ‘Like’ an Addictive Opioid,” November 13, 2017. But Parker only confirmed what I had been contending for years in commentaries like “Facebook ‘Like’ an Infectious Disease,” January 24, 2014.

    Now ex-Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya is echoing Parker’s confession, lamenting how users blithely confuse popularity with truth:

    The tools that we have created today are starting to erode the social fabric of how society works. …

    Social media exploit our own natural tendencies in human beings to get and want feedback [which], chemically speaking, is the release of dopamine in your brain. … I think if you get to desensitized and you need it over and over and over again, then you become actually detached from the world in which you live.

    (CNBC, December 12, 2017)

    Frankly, these confessionals about social media smack of the way deprogrammed members speak about cults. But one hopes they inspire Facebook’s billion-plus junkies to kick their habit.

    Incidentally, most Facebook users I know think stupid Trump supporters are the greatest threat to Western civilization. How interesting then that Facebook programmers seem to think those stupid Trump supporters have nothing on brain-dead Facebook users in this respect.

    Facebook users would do well to stop taking selfies and simply take a look in the mirror.

    In the meantime, it speaks volumes that this executive takes pride in saying that he does not allow his own children to use Facebook. And why would he; after all, he knows it’s tantamount to getting kids hooked on opioids.

    Apropos of which, the following might help Facebook users rediscover the Merry in Christmas:

    Too much Facebook browsing at Christmas – and seeing all those ‘perfect’ families and holiday photos – is more likely to make you miserable than festive, research suggests.

    A University of Copenhagen study suggests excessive use of social media can create feelings of envy.

    It particularly warns about the negative impact of ‘lurking’ on social media without connecting with anyone.

    (BBC, December 22, 2016)

    Of course, this lurking into depressive envy is particularly pathetic given that most online photos of perfect families (and Christmas holidays) are … FAKE!

    That said, I hasten to acknowledge the redeeming value inherent in all social media. Foremost is the way these platforms enable people living under tyrannies to bypass state-controlled media to share stories of their oppression.

    It’s just too bad that social media also enable this famous Churchillian lament like never before:

    A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

    Not to mention the way social media enable shysters of all stripes to peddle their wares, playing millions for suckers – as trout-pout “Kylie” and the Kardashians demonstrate all too well.

    Related commentaries:
    Zuckerberg
    Infectious disease

  • Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 7:27 AM

    Happy Hanukkah

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Monday, December 11, 2017 at 7:48 AM

    Obama Joins Chorus Warning about Trump’s America Aping Hitler’s Germany

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have been in the vanguard of those warning about this fearful symmetry. In fact, my concerns were such that I began sounding alarms long before a conspiracy of bigotry, ignorance, and complacency misled voters to elect Donald J. Trump the 45th president of the United States.

    I reacted to this black-swan election with “WTF: President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done?” November 9, 2016. But commentaries like “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker!” April 8, 2011, “Hip-Hop Mogul Pens Fawning Letter Chastising/Cheering Racist Trump,” December 11, 2015, and “Republicans Bewailing Trump as Their Nominee; Democrats Hailing Hillary as Theirs,” June 8, 2016, attest to my early warnings.

    But such warnings are now mainstream, so much so that no less a person than former President Obama has joined the chorus. But none of us (not even Hillary) got right wingers frothing with outrage like he did after saying this last week during an address to the Economic Club of Chicago:

    We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly.

    That’s what happened in Germany in the 1930s, which despite the democracy of the Weimar Republic and centuries of high-level cultural and scientific achievements, Adolf Hitler rose to dominate. Sixty million people died. … So, you’ve got to pay attention. And vote.

    (Crain’s Chicago Business, December 6, 2017)

    I won’t dignify any of that outrage by citing, let alone commenting on, it. But I know that right-wing zealots (arguably Trump’s “Brownshirts”) want you to think that these warning are only coming from left-wing liberals who still can’t accept that Trump is president. And too many reporters and commentators are either too ignorant or too lazy to cite evidence that counters this narrative.

    This is why I hasten to note that Europeans – from Prince Charles to Stern, the most respected news magazine in Germany – are issuing similar warnings. I commented on the former in “Prince Charles Draws Analogies Between Trumpism and Nazism,” February 8, 2017. Here is how The Hill, the most respected political news magazine in America, commented on the latter:

    A German news magazine’s latest cover image shows President Trump doing a Nazi salute.

    Stern is portraying Trump wearing an American flag and doing the salute, which is illegal in Germany. The caption reads ‘Sein Kampf,’ which means ‘his struggle’ — a reference to Adolf Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kampf,’ or ‘My Struggle.’

    ‘Neo-nazis, Ku Klux Klan, Racism: As Donald Trump stirs the hate in America,’ a translation of the cover reads.

    (August 23, 2017)

    Meanwhile, the trolls howling at Obama for daring to issue this warning are the very ones giving their version of seig heil to all of Trump’s fascistic policies and rhetoric. Frankly, Trump’s willing enablers are every bit as converted today as Hitler’s willing executioners became during the darkest days of his Nazi regime.

    I have written many commentaries lamenting the myriad ways Evangelical Christians and Republican politicians have sacrificed their values and principles at the altar of Trump’s presidency. (Acclaimed ethicist Peter Wehner gives compelling testimony to this fact in today’s New York Times under the headline “Why I Can No Longer Call Myself an Evangelical Republican.”) But nobody personifies this incomprehensible conversion to Trumpism quite like the longest-serving Republican in the US Senate (at 40 years), Orin Hatch of Utah.

    Remarkably, like fish to water, Hatch has taken to helping Trump tear down the democratic institutions and bonds of bipartisanship he spent his career building up. You’d never know that, before he became the deacon of Trump’s political crusade, Hatch was best known for striking legislative compromises with his best friend in the Senate, namely, Democrat Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts (a.k.a. the liberal lion).

    But, sadly, Hatch has gone so far over to the dark side that Politico quoted him preaching this Republican heresy recently:

    I’ll say this for ya. [Trump has] been one of the best presidents I’ve served under.

    (December 3, 2017)

    One cannot avoid saying here that former President Ronald Reagan must be rolling over in his grave. But surely he has been doing that ever since Trumpism trumped Reaganism in the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

    In any event, no leader since Hitler has done more to rattle the “thin veneer of civilization” than Trump. This is a comparison nobody can deny.

    That said, I also hasten to note that I’m on record declaring my abiding belief that America’s constitutional checks and balances, as well as its democratic institutions, distinguish it from Germany’s Weimar Republic. This is why I am so confident that Trump will either resign in disgrace or be impeached before he can come anywhere close to emulating Hitler’s destruction.

    All the same, I fear the zeitgeist of his presidency will leave an indelible stain not only on the reputation of America but also on the psyche of its people.

    God help America.

    Related commentaries:
    WTF! Trump president-elect
    Hip-hop mogul
    I can’t … without spitting…”
    Bewailing Trump
    Trump’s America
    Trumpism and Nazism

  • Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 7:38 AM

    Intifada – a latterday David vs. Goliath

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In a speech on Thursday evening, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah waded into the decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – he supported a new Palestinian intifada, condemned the American decision and called on Lebanese not to have dealings with Israel.

    ‘If the Palestinians undertake an intifada, the Arab and Muslim world must support it – morally, financially and by arming it with weapons.’

    (Jerusalem Post, December 8, 2017)

    So here’s to supporters of the Palestinian cause smuggling in as many slingshots as possible.

    Incidentally, that the Israelites have become the Philistine Goliath in this proverbial struggle speaks volumes about how much they have not only lost their moral compass but forgotten where they came from.

    They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt. …

    Because they had rebelled against the words of God And spurned the counsel of the Most High.

    (Psalms 106:21, 107:11)

    In other words, they have violated the most fundamental of all Mosaic laws:

    Do to others what you would have them do to you.

    (Mathew 7:12)

    Related commentaries:
    Palestinian uprising

  • Friday, December 8, 2017 at 7:58 AM

    Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Fans Are as Stupid as Trump’s Voters

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    When Beyoncé performed in North Carolina last year, I argued that it was tantamount to endorsing that state’s anti-LGBT law. Further that, in doing so, she was being every bit as mercenary as entertainers who performed in South Africa during the Apartheid regime.

    More to the point, though, here is what I wrote about her marriage in “For LGBTs in North Carolina, Beyoncé Is a Sellout,” May 6, 2016.

    ____________________

    Lemonade is all about Beyoncé playing her fans for suckers; you know, the way Donald Trump plays his supporters. In fact, the women who believe her I-am-woman-hear-me-roar-against-my-cheating-husband schtick are no smarter than the rednecks who believe his “Make-America-Great-Again” schtick.

    Frankly, even the Kardashians can’t keep up with the way Bey and Jay exploit the intimacies of family life, including infidelities. Which is why it’s hardly surprising that he’s planning to mix his ‘Iced Tea’ with her Lemonade.

    If you interpreted Beyoncé’s Lemonade to be the conclusive mic drop on speculation about her marriage to Jay Z, you may have been wrong. A new report states that Bey’s husband of eight years is planning on responding to his wife’s many lyrical accusations — that he cheated on her, took her for granted, and did not treat her like the queen she is — with his own album telling ‘his side of things.’

    (Vanity Fair, May 4, 2016)

    Sadly, Bey and Jay have just cause to believe millions will pay to see them act like Ike and Tina Turner – complete with Jay playing an alpha dog who can shag as many ‘Beckys’ as he wants to.

    With all due respect to Michelle Obama [who hailed her as a role model], Bey is misleading young women to think that venting psychotic violence is the way to deal with infidelity. She reinforces this in the epic video for her album by burning houses, smashing up cars, and even hinting at skinning his mistress(es) alive. Then, after her ‘waiting-to-exhale’ rage, she reforms, forgives him, and takes him back.

    Far from paying tribute to love and reconciliation, Lemonade serves up little more than sour-tasting male chauvinism. Only this explains Bey portraying a subjugated wife who, despite her purported intelligence, independence, and resourcefulness, feels she has no choice but to reconcile with a husband who disrespects and abuses her. Even worse, her idea of redemption has her musing, like a victim of Stockholm syndrome, that ‘my torturer became my remedy.’ That is, of course, until the next cycle of disrespect and abuse.

    Meanwhile, Bey and Jay are laughing all the way to the bank. This is why their marriage seems more like a business partnership than a love relationship. And, just as it is with Bill and Hillary’s political partnership, that’s fine. Just let us be sensible enough to recognize it for what it is … and call this spade a spade.

    ____________________

    The Beyhive attacked, naturally. Thankfully, I inoculated myself against far more menacing trolls long before they swarmed on me.

    All the same, reports on Trump’s policies are causing even his stupid voters to finally see him in a negative light. Here’s to this report on Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s exploitation causing their stupid fans to do the same:

    Jay-Z’s transgressions reportedly inspired many of the songs on Beyoncé’s most recent album, Lemonade, [which] sold 2.5 million copies globally in 2016 [and] prompted Beyoncé’s Formation tour, which grossed $256 million, helping to push her net worth to an estimated $350 million, according to Forbes.

    Meanwhile, Jay-Z parlayed the experience into his latest album, 4:44, which became his 14th album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and garnered him several Grammy nominations. Both his album and Beyoncé’s also sparked renewed interest in Tidal, the music streaming service he co-owns.

    (Market Watch, December 4, 2017)

    Ka-ching!

    Clearly, Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s marriage is even more “successful” than Bill and Hillary’s.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 7:04 AM

    Recognizing Jerusalem: Trump’s America and Netanyahu’s Israel against the World

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Trump on Wednesday formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and setting in motion a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the fiercely contested Holy City.

    Mr. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem isolates the United States on one of the world’s most sensitive diplomatic issues. It has drawn a storm of criticism from Arab and European leaders [and even] Pope Francis and the Chinese foreign ministry joined the chorus of voices warning that the move could unleash a wave of violence across the region.

    (New York Times, December 6, 2017)

    Frankly, I’m not sure why people are getting their knickers in a twist over this recognition. After all, it’s so plainly just another of Trump’s political stunts. For example, he made quite a show of “ripping up” the Iran nuclear deal. Yet he left it to Congress to assure Iran that the United States will continue to honor it.

    In this case, even he made clear that his announcement amounted to much ado about nothing.

    Specifically, the only difference between him and his predecessors is that they were too respectful of the competing claims to Jerusalem and too diplomatic to risk regional fallout from making this presidential announcement.

    Yet Trump took idle-minded pride in pointing out that he couldn’t care less about those claims or that risk. Moreover, he clearly couldn’t give a damn about the adverse impact on the perennially beleaguered peace process.

    The point is that this announcement does nothing to change the status of Jerusalem as a terminally divided city – with Israelis claiming the west as their capital and Palestinians claiming the east as theirs. Period.

    This is why, instead of reacting to this stunt, world leaders should just ignore it. Here is an instructive excerpt from “Advisers Treating Trump Like that Crazy Uncle … and It Behooves Everyone to Do the Same,” May 2, 2017.

    ____________________

    Trump has his surrogates continually scrambling to clarify the stunningly stupid and often reckless things he says. …

    Many commentators are suddenly parroting the crazy-uncle allusion. But here is how I made it several weeks ago – as I explained the implications of this farcical dynamic between Trump and his advisers:

    Such blunders are becoming a feature of his presidency. This is why political and business leaders worldwide are beginning to treat him like a crazy uncle, who is liable to say anything. Instead, they are looking to his cabinet secretaries to explain official US policies.

    (“Hail, Erdogan – Nouveau Sultan of Turkey,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 19, 2017)

    Beyond this, the world should thank God for the constitutional checks and balances that limit the damage a crazy president like Trump can do.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, reports are that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis lobbied to no avail to disabuse Trump of the folly of making this announcement. But I have no doubt that his advisers are already reaching out to world leaders to clean up this latest mess.

    This is especially so regarding leaders in the Middle East. Perhaps Tillerson can convince them that Trump making this announcement in America is no different from Yassar Arafat shouting “death to America” in Ramallah, but singing “God bless America” everywhere else. In other words, it’s all about the base.

    That said, I would not be surprised if (Muslim) leaders in the Middle East begin looking to China as a more reliable superpower patron and peace broker. Not least because, in doing so, they would only be following the switch many in Africa, the Caribbean, and South America have already made.

    Meanwhile, apropos of his base, Trump knows that he did enough to get ignorant Evangelicals in America to hail him as a latterday Saul of Tarsus. Not to mention how much he’s relishing the hosannas he’s getting from right-wing Zionists in Israel. Never mind that he’s too self-absorbed to notice that they see him as nothing more than a useful idiot doing their bidding.

    Israeli PM [Benjamin Netanyahu’s] response to US President’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel:

    ‘This is a historic day. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. …

    We’re profoundly grateful to the President for his courageous and just decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to prepare for the opening of the US embassy here.’

    (Arutz Sheva 7, December 6, 2017)

    Alas, this sectarian bit of idol worship is worth all the risk in the world to the reckless and narcissistic Trump.

    But I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the Iago-like role Netanyahu played in getting Trump to make this announcement. It’s also worth noting that Netanyahu probably cares even less about the fallout.

    Netanyahu seems to think Israel can get by with a little help from its friends — even if those friends compose just the small faction of Christian fundamentalists and neo-cons on the lunatic fringe of US Republican Party.

    (“Netanyahu’s Call for Jewish Exodus more Sharpton than Moses,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 23, 2015)

    Only this explains Netanyahu defying the dire warnings of his purported Muslim friends (notably the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey) – all of whom have joined in the “storm of criticism.” All that’s left is for the world to ramp up the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, so much so that Israel becomes as much a pariah nation today as South Africa was during the 1980s.

    Israel might think America’s support is all it needs. But it would do well to recognize that global pressure forced Reagan’s America to abandon Apartheid South Africa back then. Because such pressure could also force Trump’s America to abandon Apartheid Israel today.

    And, if you think the analogy is misplaced, I refer you to such commentaries as “Israel Votes to Become more Like (Old) Apartheid South Africa,” March 18, 2014.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 9:24 pm

  • Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 7:49 AM

    IOC Ban Shows USA How to Deal with ‘Systematically’ Corrupt Russia

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Russia’s Olympic team has been barred from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. … Any athletes from Russia who receive special dispensation to compete will do so as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals.

    That was the punishment issued Tuesday to the proud sports juggernaut that has long used the Olympics as a show of global force but was exposed for systematic doping in previously unfathomable ways.

    (New York Times, December 5, 2017)

    This ban of an entire Olympic team is unprecedented. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) insists that it’s only proportional to Russia’s “unprecedented assault on the integrity of the Olympic Games.”

    As it happens, this follows a more limited ban on Russian Track & Field athletes, which the IOC issued for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Here in part is the prescient way I commented on that ban:

    I suspect Track and Field athletes are being punished for the sins of Russian athletes in every other sport. After all, it beggars belief to think that Russia used systemic doping to enhance the performance of these athletes, but left those in every other sport to rely on their natural abilities.

    (“Track Officials Ban Russians from Rio Olympics for Doping,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 18, 2016)

    Mind you, despite protesting its innocence back then, Russia vowed to clean up its act to qualify for these Games. Therefore, it speaks volumes about the insidious nature of the doping at issue that Russia was unable to do so. Indeed, Germany is already leading a clarion call for the IOC to ban its entire team from the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan.

    In any event, this ban means that Russia is now about as respected in the world of sports as North Korea is in the world of politics. Mind you, I have often quipped that Russia is just North Korea with more nukes.

    To be fair, though, even North Korea can claim that the integrity of its national character is such that it would never even countenance cheating in this systematic fashion for Olympic glory.

    This is why, try as he might, Russian President Vladimir Putin can barely conceal the look of eternal shame he has brought upon his “proud” nation. No doubt he’s cursing fate that he’s not lording over the old Soviet Union. For, if he were, he could force satellite states to join Russia in a face-saving boycott.

    Instead, even more Russian athletes will be queuing up to effectively renounce their citizenship to compete in Tokyo than the number who did to compete in Rio, which will only compound Russia’s humiliation and shame. Well, that is unless Putin makes clear that he would do to the family of any Russian who competes what Kim Jong-un does to the family of any North Korean who defects.

    Meanwhile, Putin is blaming this IOC decision on a Western plot to affect the outcome of the presidential election in Russia next year. Evidently, irony is even more lost on him than pravda (truth). Not to mention that everyone knows he will rig this one the way he has rigged every other election he has won.

    Frankly, his blame shifting is patently absurd. The fact is that this IOC ban punched a big hole in the master-of-the-universe image Putin has cultivated in Russia. He’s only trying desperately to cover it up.

    That said, this IOC ban has also magnified US President Donald Trump’s morally bankrupt fraternization with Putin. After all, his predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama treated Putin like a pariah. And they had good cause for doing so.

    Specifically, both Bush and Obama imposed increasingly crippling sanctions against Russia because, among other things, Putin

    • annexed the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia;
    • annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea;
    • ordered assassins to kill journalists and dissidents at home and abroad; and
    • ordered trolls to undermine democratic elections and institutions everywhere from Germany to the United States.

    Yet, despite all this, along comes Trump angling not just to lift those sanctions but also to treat Putin with even greater camaraderie than he accords leaders of America’s most trusted allies.

    I have posited in many commentaries that only one thing explains their antic bromance: Putin, a former KGB colonel, has such compromising information on Trump that this pussy-grabbing narcissist is willing to sell his soul, and even sell out his country, to keep it from seeing the light of day.

    The Winter Games get underway on February 9, 2018.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 7:52 AM

    Trump’s Lawyer Says this Wannabe Dictator IS Above the Law

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Trump tweeted over the weekend that he knew then-national security adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador before firing him in February — and before FBI Director James B. Comey said Trump asked him to be lenient while investigating Flynn. Experts said the president’s admission increased his legal exposure to obstruction-of-justice charges, one of the core crimes under investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

    But Trump’s personal lawyer John Dowd sought to excuse the president’s tweet in part by telling Axios and NBC News on Monday that the ‘president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case.’

    (Washington Post, December 4, 2017)

    Well, who could have seen this coming? Oh wait:

    Richard Nixon famously intoned that ‘when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.’ This seems the kind of self-deluding logic that animates Trump’s presidency. …

    We know the fate that befell Nixon for thinking he was a law unto himself. I suspect a similar fate will befall Trump.

    (“Trump Decertifying Iran Nuclear Deal more MALO than MAGA,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 13, 2017)

    I elaborated on this foreboding symmetry months earlier in “Channeling Nixon, Trump Fires FBI Director,” May 9, 2017.

    Therefore, I will only add that – in commentaries like “Evangelicals Supporting Donald Trump Like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016 – I lamented the willful willingness of so many to sacrifice their personal and professional integrity at the altar of Trump’s political ambition. But even I am surprised that a seasoned and respected lawyer like Dowd would do the same.

    Except that Evangelicals supported Trump, an accused serial rapist, for president. And they are now compounding their moral backsliding by supporting Roy Moore, an accused serial child molester, for senator. Therefore, given this, I suppose nothing should be surprising when it comes to moral turpitude and rank hypocrisy in this age of Trump.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, December 4, 2017 at 7:56 AM

    Pope Francis Compounds Moral Cowardice with Contrived Apology to Rohingyas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    There was considerable disagreement among the Catholic clergy and political commentariat about the wisdom of Francis dignifying Myanmar with a papal visit. But there was consensus that, if he did, he would face a categorical imperative to not only condemn this country’s genocidal sins but dare to speak the name of the victims of those sins: Rohingyas!

    This is why it was so shocking to see this pope backslide on both counts. Most notably, he dodged the word Rohingya during his national sermon as artfully as former President Bill Clinton famously dodged the word sex during his criminal deposition.

    But, in doing so, Francis impeached his moral authority. And it shall redound to his eternal disgrace that he did so merely to appease the genocidal sense and sensibility of Myanmar’s military regime.

    Then came this belated, pathetic display of humble courage:

    Pope Francis asked for forgiveness Friday from refugees in Bangladesh for all the hurt and persecution they have endured, demanded their rights be recognized and pronounced the word he had so assiduously avoided only days earlier in Myanmar: ‘Rohingya.’ …

    He apologized for the ‘indifference of the world’ to their plight and then pronounced the name of their ethnic group to a gathering of Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian leaders.

    (Washington Post, December 1, 2017)

    This, from the purported champion of the oppressed who himself had just consecrated that indifference. Frankly, this is even more egregious than Trump making a presidential visit to Russia and assiduously avoiding any word about its authoritarian regime undermining US elections and democratic institutions.

    When he was elected, Francis seemed determined to emulate Jesus. He inspired faith that he would turn over the tables of dogma, decadence, and deceit that had been dogging the Catholic Church for decades. And, sure enough, he immediately pronounced lifestyle changes and began pastoral practices that augured well.

    But I was soon despairing that his papacy was mostly about inspiring faith that he would do things he was showing very little evidence of doing. Here, for example, is what I wrote in “Cardinal Living Like Princes; the Pope Like a Pauper,” March 11, 2016.

    ____________________

    I don’t mind admitting that Francis made a liar out of me when he chose to live in a modest communal apartment instead of the Apostolic Palace. I had declared this prospect impracticable, even absurd. But he clearly hoped cardinals and bishops would follow fashion. They have not.

    In fact, it appears the pope is the only church leader living the humble life he decreed. Even worse:

    Two controversial new books describe a Vatican awash with cash that is woefully mismanaged, where senior officials pour church funds into their already-lavish apartments, and where even the office that researches candidates for sainthood has had its bank accounts frozen out of concerns about financial impropriety.

    (London Guardian, November 3, 2015)

    Alas, leaders of the Catholic Church have no greater regard for the Code of Canon Law pertaining to poverty than they have for the one pertaining to celibacy. I commented on the pope himself lamenting the former in “Pope Francis Condemns the ‘Cult and Idolatry of Money,’” November 27, 2013, and the latter in “Pope Confesses: There’s a Gay Cabal in the Vatican,” July 13, 2013.

    But don’t get me started on the indulgences church leaders grant priests who sexually abuse children. I commented on this betrayal of faith and trust in “Pope Accused of Harboring Pedophile Priests,” March 16, 2010.

    ____________________

    Therefore, I am not surprised by the shameful way Francis cowered to the diabolical whims of Myanmar’s military junta.

    Incidentally, it spoke volumes when a chorus of Nobel peace laureates and celebrities condemned Myanmar’s titular leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her indifference to the plight of the Rohingyas. This makes their failure to condemn Francis in similar fashion as confusing as it is cowardly.

    Catholics believe their religion is predicated on moral absolutes. But, despite their dogma, Catholics – from pope to laity – have practiced a kind of moral relativism that has always made them seem more hypocritical than religious.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 8:47 AM

    Trump is ‘odd man out’ in (growing) rogue’s gallery of sexual predators and pettifogging perverts

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Friday, December 1, 2017 at 7:48 AM

    Lindsey Vonn Wants to Ski against Men…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, this is arrogant and disrespectful (to both men and women skiers).

    Downhill Skiing ranks among my favorite spectator sports – right behind Swimming and Track and Field. This is why I am so dismayed by the farce Lindsey Vonn is trying to make of this sport.

    The 33-year-old, the most successful woman in World Cup history with 77 victories, is still hopeful that her sport’s governing body, the International Ski Federation (FIS), will allow her to race in a men’s World Cup downhill race next year. …

    ‘FIS are coming around to the idea, I’ve had more positive feedback than I’ve had in the past so I’m going to keep working on it and, hopefully, I can get it done.’

    (CNN, November 1, 2017)

    Mind you, it would be one thing if Vonn were as dominant when skiing downhill as Katie Ledecky is when swimming long distances against women. But she is far from it. What’s more, the women she’s competing against at this weekend’s World Cup races in Lake Louise, Alberta, will undoubtedly reinforce this fact.

    This is why her petition to compete against men is both arrogant and disrespectful:

    • arrogant because it presumes an ability to compete at a level that is plainly beyond her reach; and
    • disrespectful because on the one hand it reduces the men’s competition to nothing more than a foil for her publicity stunt, while on the other hand it casts the women’s competition as not being challenging enough for her.

    As it happens, we’ve been treated to this kind of sporting stunt before – and I’m not talking about the famous Battle of the Sexes between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.

    A decade ago, Michelle Wie was a sure thing: only 16 and a new pro but not yet an LPGA member, the lanky long hitter from Hawaii had six top-five finishes in eight tour starts. …

    After that, the expectation – and pressure – was off the charts. It is easy now to look back and say her development might have been better served if she had focused on winning against girls her own age instead of trying to make the cut against men, a quest she abandoned in 2008.

    (Golf Digest, July 5, 2016)

    Apropos of the then 29-year-old Billie Jean King’s trailblazing stunt, bear in mind that Riggs was a 55-year old who was not even ranked in the top 1000 among men Tennis players. A fair analogy would have Vonn competing against a group of random middle-aged men at a ski resort in Vail, Colorado.

    I respectfully submit that, if she’s determined to compete against men, doing so for exhibition at such a resort would be more appropriate.

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    *This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 1:36 pm

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